Evening prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Blog Post

The Splendor of Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem, Despite the Sadness

Sadness prevails in all of Palestine on this Eid al-Fitr as Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza continues.

We can see this on the faces of the people.

Hajj Muhammad Abd al-Rahman, 76, from the Haret al-Sa‘diyya neighborhood in the Old City, told Jerusalem Story, “By God, there is no desire to celebrate the Eid. We decided to shorten the Eid lunch that we eat with the whole family, because our hearts and minds are with our family in Gaza.”1

“Our hearts and minds are with our family in Gaza.”

Hajj Muhammad Abd al-Rahman

Palestinian Muslims in Gaza perform the Eid al-Fitr prayer in an open space, with destruction in the background and a rainbow overhead.

Palestinians in Gaza living in tents they set up near the Egyptian border, displaced by Israeli attacks, perform the Eid al-Fitr prayer in an open area in Rafah, Gaza, April 10, 2024.


Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images

Despite the sadness, Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem still has a special splendor. After the end of the Eid prayer, every Jerusalemite buys some of the ka‘ek bread so strongly associated with the city, along with some large falafel balls, whether they are stuffed with onions and hot peppers or plain.

Generally, Jerusalemites are quick to note whether the ka‘ek is fresh from one of the Old City’s firewood ovens or not. But this year such details were overlooked; preserving the Eid al-Fitr ritual was what mattered. As Hajj Muhammad observed, the ka‘ek could be heated to be fresh and crispy.

And after feasting on ka‘ek, everyone headed to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their departed family members and loved ones. At the cemetery, families distribute sweets, offered as a token of mercy for the souls of the dead.

In years gone by, the sweets distributed at cemeteries were ghurayba, a light yellow, hard, low-sugar cookie-like sweet, shaped like the letter S. In Jerusalem, this sweet is associated with cemeteries and death.

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Ka‘ek al-Quds is not just a special bread—it is part and parcel of the personality of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Despite the sadness, Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem still has a special splendor.

On Eid al-Fitr this year, this phenomenon of food distribution at cemeteries was more noticeable than usual. As soon as you climbed the steps leading to Bab al-Asbat cemetery, someone was there to greet you with a plate of small baklava sweets. Next to him stood a person distributing bottles of water. Not far away, a host of others were distributing various pastries and drinks: shortbread, water, dates, plastic water cups, baklava, special Eid cakes, and ma‘moul.

There, in the middle of the cemetery, a young man implored passersby in a loud voice: “This is for my father’s soul. Please take whatever you want and pray for mercy for my father.” He was distributing donuts.

The young man in black clothes was standing at the grave of his father, who seemed to have recently died. As people left al-Aqsa Mosque and made their way home, they stopped to pick up a pastry and a cup of water, and they recited the al-Fatiha prayer for the young man’s father. The son implored everyone who could hear him with an astonishing insistence; he was clearly in pain and wanted everyone in Jerusalem to pray for his father.

Dr. Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and ethnographer who has lived in Jerusalem for most of his life, told Jerusalem Story: “There are many aspects of the sacred character associated with Islamic thought. We see one of its aspects in Eid in the concept of ‘good deeds’ and ‘benevolence’ in visiting graves, in ‘repairing the heart,’ and visiting women with few relatives (silat al-rahm, ‘from the ties of kinship’), and giving ‘eidiyya’ (money to children and some female relatives). After the morning Eid prayer, we would go to the cemetery and recite al-Fatiha for our dead, which was considered good for them, for us, and for whoever listens to our recitation . . . In those days in the happy past, beggars would gather at the entrances to the Haram al-Sharif, the Bab al-Rahma cemetery, and the Bab al-Asbat cemetery, waiting for the Eid prayer to be over.”2

Blog Post Ma‘moul and Ka‘ek: The Anticipated Rewards after Fasting during Holidays

A holiday tradition for Christian and Muslim Jerusalemites alike, these delicacies date back centuries and reward those who abstained from food to grow spiritually.

al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem at night, its gold dome glittering

al-Aqsa Mosque at night


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

And then people head for their homes, after fulfilling their religious duty in the al-Aqsa Mosque and their social duty by visiting those whom custom dictates should be visited. 

At home, they continue to follow the news of the city, and their hearts are still attached to al-Aqsa Mosque. 

Saad Abdel Moati, 24, told Jerusalem Story that he has become attached to it more than any year, and that he felt great sadness after the end of the month of Ramadan. He felt that the al-Aqsa Mosque bid a reluctant farewell to its loved ones after embracing them for a whole month, and that the mosque was saying to them: “Do not forget me, for what is coming is more dangerous than what has passed, and I am alone without you . . .”3

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Hajj Muhammad Abd al-Rahman, interview by the author, April 10, 2024.


Ali Qleibo, interview by the author, April 10, 2024.


Saad Abdel Moati, interview by the author, April 10, 2024.

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